It's so good to be back with a chapter. You will meet Amy and Zoicite! Please leave a comment.
Chapter 6: Double Vision
This was what hours in a rocking and creaking horse-drawn carriage did to the not so average traveler. Serenity felt she would remember the aches and pain along her thighs that traveled up her lower back for the rest of her days. Oh, how she would forever dread traveling after this ordeal. She just might get goose bumps if anyone ever mentioned 'carriage' or 'journey' to her. Endymion would peg Serenity the non-adventurous type the moment he got word from his sister-in-law that his wife was as bad as one of those whining children in the backseat.
Serenity scrambled out of the carriage the moment it stopped in the middle of the path. Raye trailed behind her reminding her where they were. "We need to stop here in Izlude for a hot meal. Zoicite suggests we only stay a short time to rest, so that Diamond won't easily catch up to us. We will probably reach the border by nightfall at this pace, but that's good since we will need the cover of darkness."
Serenity spun on her heels to face Raye, her bones were creaking under the tight muscles that refused to budge normally. "What about Endymion?"
Raye sighed. "I don't know anything. It's best if it stays that way because I don't want to be worrying about the men."
"Might he be in trouble?" Serenity asked as she edged closer to the side of the carriage for support.
Raye's fists were on her hips. "If he was in trouble my husband would be in it as well. How do you think that makes me feel?" The woman looked as if she was ready to throw a fit in front of Serenity. Serenity wanted to cower behind the wheel of the carriage when Raye released a powerful and frustrated roar. Serenity was realizing a little too late that Raye was not a happy traveler as well.
Serenity watched with baited breath as Raye reached into the coach again, the bottom half of her body standing outside.
"Raye, I'm sorry. I have been inconsiderate…"
Raye grumbled something that was further muffled by her being half inside the carriage.
Serenity shifted so that she was standing right behind Raye's leg. She bent ever so slightly. "I am not used to being helped by such good company. That's all."
Raye finally gave up her search for a moment and came out of the carriage. She opened her mouth to tell Serenity that she accepted her apology, but a twist occurred and completely interrupted her.
Serenity agilely slid to the side and pressed her back to the carriage as a stampede of men came running down their path. Raye didn't even have enough time to scramble out of the way when they came rampaging and took her in the current of their mob.
"Raye!" Serenity cried in panic.
"Someone help my friend! She's been swept away!"
All the opened shutters of the houses slammed shut. Serenity could sense invisible eyes peaking through the blinds and keyholes, but no one stepped out to help. The townspeople were there, but they pretended they weren't by hiding in their shelters. Desperate, Serenity ran after the mob of men. All the fear was gone from her. Determination took over.
"Over here, over here!" A young man with messy navy hair, from around the corner of a tea shop, shouted at the mob. "You idiots can't tell the difference between a jackass and yous-self. You got the wrong person."
Serenity could hear Raye screech. "Amy!"
The mob dropped Raye and ran after the young man. Just a few yards behind Raye and behind a lamppost another young man similar to the one around the tea shop jumped out from hiding. "There you go again. Chasing the wrong fellow! Get it right!" The young man hurled a stone into the throe before hiking up the wall and disappearing. The mob was tossing one another over the wall.
Meanwhile, Serenity went over to an outraged Raye. "I'll have all your heads for this!" She screamed. Serenity made way for Raye to stomp back to their carriage. No one seemed to heed the vengeful woman.
"Psssst… Here," said the young man from within a dark alley; which one it was, Serenity wasn't sure. He gestured a bloody hand at Serenity. "Some help here, please." Serenity looked about her before stumbling into the alley with him. "I think I might faint soon," said the young man about fifteen years of age. "It's nice to have an angel see me off."
Serenity stooped to the body slouched against the wall. He had a hand over his side. "Nonsense!" Serenity whispered hoarsely, bloodying her own hands on the wound. The cut was deep, but it didn't reach any organs. Serenity was not sure she could do much more than close it first. The infection may be too deep already depending on how long he had the cut.
"I'll see what I can do." She pressed harder and felt the boy try to flinch away. A rustle and the other young man dropped in right next to the boy. Shocked, Serenity shot backwards and stared into the eyes of this stranger. Serenity immediately knew the arrival wasn't who he seemed to be.
"Oh! Please do continue. Don't mind me." The older young man, probably the older brother, placed a strong arm under the shoulders of the boy and pinned him down as Serenity returned to her job closing the gash.
This was not Serenity's first time working on cuts. Back at the convent, some of the girls might cut themselves during various chores, such as mincing vegetables. Those horrible cuts were not nearly as bad as this since she was always able to get to them in time. Here, when she closed her eyes and worked her healing magic, she was fighting against pathogens that wanted to consume her. They were black blobs of inky terrors that smeared against his pulsing red life force and overwhelmed her inner vision. Serenity had to concentrate on the white fibers that closed in on the darkness. She governed the fibers to multiply and twist into shinny, silver layers of webbing. The pathogens wriggled and squirmed, but none got away from their fate and they were swallowed by the light she produced. The webs continued to grow and they reached out their ends like fingers to latch onto the edges of the skin. "This might sting a little," Serenity warned, and before the older young man was ready to cover the scream that would escape his younger brother, the fiber-like fingers pulled in one quick tug, leaving a short-lived silver track where the scar would remain.
The pounding of footfalls reached the only opening into the dead end alley.
"Oh, dear," said the young man with dark hair. He pushed Serenity behind him and Serenity had to catch herself before she fell on the unconscious boy behind them. "Stay behind me."
After catching herself, Serenity glimpsed the torn sleeve on the man and the shallow, but fresh scar there. "You're hurt!"
"Nothing I can't patch up later. I must thank you properly for saving my brother after we get out of this," he said, throwing an apologetic smile her way.
The mob advanced to the point that there was only a three yard distance between them. "Let us punish the boy for his misconducts. Our beef's with the brat!"
"Louis, remember how I brought your sister back to life when she almost drowned in the lake two summers ago?" The man demanded.
The man holding the spiky club and who stood in the middle of the mob balked. "Ace?"
"I go by my given name in this town, boys… Bradford, remember how I willingly climbed the Hills of Travine to pluck fresh roots in the springs for the immunity potion I mixed for your dying mother? Are you not thankful for that?"
The skinnier, but not any less menacing than Louis, Bradford, stepped out from the throng. "Why must you keep helping the runt, Ace? He does you no good 'case you haven't noticed."
The young man charged on. "Rom, I never told anyone of your problems. I just took them away. Are you going to kill me for all I've done for you?"
The one with the ragged edged sword growled. "Ace, you can't keep making us feel sorry for ourselves. It was that brat brother of yous that got you into messes like these tons of times. There's no helping you now. If you won't let us through, we'll just force us through."
Ace threw his hands up. "Wait! Randell, I saved your wife in childbirth. I was there when little Liz was born. Remember?"
Randell gave a grumpy sigh. "I remember. You did a lot for us. But it's yous brother that's the one to repent. You should have kept him away from us if you cared to keep him alive."
"Greg," Ace turned to the man standing at the head of the mob. "Please, let him go. I promise he won't get in the way again."
"How many times have you made promises you can't keep to me?" Greg asked in a strained murmur.
Serenity gathered her senses again as a calm gently settled in. She was sensing that Ace had it all under control, so it came as no surprise when she was beginning to read into these people's lives. There was a special connection between Greg and Ace. It was something so comforting yet intense that it almost left Serenity breathless with confusion. The strength of Greg's feelings was so much more passionate and palpable that Ace's platonic and kind feelings for the leader were dwarfed too many folds over to count.
"I swear on my life that he won't cross paths with the lot of you. If he does a second time, then you can take my life and his. Does that satisfy all of you?"
It dawned on Serenity why Ace was not who he seemed to be by appearances alone. She was still slightly too frightened to voice her findings, but Greg wasn't going to keep his mouth closed about it.
He turned first and spoke while he faced the crowd. "We'll go back to where we came from, but your brother better not cross us again. Or else. Might I mention you look ridiculous like that, so take off the get-up! We're leaving before that damnation of a lord comes marching in with the King's army. Let's go, boys."
"What of my heirloom, Greg?!" Someone hollered.
"I will return all the stolen items he hasn't pawned off, yet. The rest will take some time to recover."
"You better," Greg warned as he turned to lead the men out of town.
Everyone who was still conscious let out a sigh of relief when the mob had finally left them alone. "That fellow is sweet on you," Serenity stated. She blushed at her own outburst when Ace's startled eyes landed on her.
"He's just an old friend. The Revolutionaries are a wandering troop out to rid the world of injustice, which means ousting the current monarchy," Ace said.
Serenity blinked. "They have just ideas, but they are going about them the wrong way. They will lead themselves to self-destruction and annihilation."
"That's why Seth and I got out of that band as soon as our parents died." His eyes widened. "Good grief, my poor little brother, Seth!"
The three stumbled out of the alley. Serenity supported Seth on one side, while Ace took the other side.
Raye came up to them in a whirling rush. "What in the name of Heavens happened here? Where are those ruthless, barbaric rebels from the desert? I have a right to beat the life out of them for what they put me through."
"As long as you're safe Raye you should help out the injured," Ace grumpily suggested.
"I don't feel safe. I never feel safe on the outskirts of the kingdom," Raye stated crossly. "Nobody likes being man-handled."
"Raye, my arm is killing me. Can you help me on this side?"
"You and your brother are such nuisances. You know that, right? You always fall into these traps that you set yourselves. I bet Lord Zoicite hasn't a clue where you've been."
"He went out for some game," Ace said as he shouldered the weight of his brother to Raye's side.
Raye rolled her eyes. "Men. You know he's going to throw a fit. Never mind your life was threatened by a mob. You just crossed your old lover to boot."
Ace sent a glare in Raye's direction. "It wasn't like that."
"Try convincing your lord who quite clearly notices the way the fellow blatantly ogles you."
Serenity cleared her throat. She was absolutely fed up with being left out from the lively chatter that seemed to bring the other two people closer and closer. Serenity was feeling more and more ostracized by the passing minute. She left Raye to do most of the heavy lifting as she reached out to touch Ace's injured arm.
"You two seem to know each other quite well. Allow me to introduce myself…"
"Serenity, right?" Ace stopped to acknowledge Serenity with kind sapphire eyes. "You saved us today. How rude of me to just ignore you. I'm terribly sorry. See, Seth here's really a good kid. He's just lost his way."
Serenity pressed the wound and worked at it as she spoke, "Actually the best apology I can get is some clarification. I am confused about what I see. The boy, Seth, has these memories of a blue-haired woman of a benevolent nature. They are connected somehow and you resemble her. Also, you have this aura about you that is quite similar to this woman's and, well… You are just someone I see that isn't what she seems. You're a woman and yet you dress like a man and imitate your brother."
Ace paused in her steps and took a hold of Serenity's hand. "This is a guise to protect Seth when I realized those men were after him. Admit it. We look quite alike."
"Yes, but it doesn't explain those strange feelings I felt from Greg that were bouncing off of you like elastic. Something of yours that Greg wants seems to belong to another and this Greg follows you around anyway. That's figuratively speaking. He seems to have sealed his fate with you, but you resist seeing things that way. What's that force radiating off of him? Rage? Menace? Passion? Love?"
Ace turned bright red and spun to assist an almost collapsed Raye. Raye barely gave the slightest shrug. "She's an odd one, eh?"
"No! Not odd at all! I already know what you can do from Endymion's letter. It's only a shock that you know so much about Seth and me. You might even know a little more than I do or at least more than I care to admit I know."
Serenity returned to Seth's other side and took half the weight under her shoulder again for which Raye was grateful.
Ace faced the trio and bowed stiffly. "Allow me to formally introduce myself, Serenity of Johara. My name is Am—"
"Amy!" The shout had her freeze in her introductions. Serenity could now see that Ace or Amy was terrified of the man who reproachfully called out to her. Her back was to him, so all the faces she made were all made at Raye and Serenity.
"Maybe if you pretend to be a stranger passing through town, asking for directions, you might convince him you're not you. Just bow to us and keep walking," Raye muttered helpfully.
"Who is he?" Serenity asked curiously.
The man with the blonde hair woven in a braid and eyes of blue steel strode forward at what seemed like an impossible pace for a man to keep his integrity whole. He had dismounted his horse and began closing the distance between them quicker than Serenity could make the proper connections with her sixth sense.
"Amy!" He grounded out.
Serenity glanced back at three guards still on horseback pulling up beside the blonde man's horse. Then, she stared at that familiar face again.
"Okay, ladies, thank you for the help. Serenity, I must greet you properly when we meet in a few," Amy spoke frantically and was only able to take one step forward before a big hand closed over her upper arm.
"You think I don't recognize my own wife when I see her!" He bellowed as he hauled her around by the arm. He tugged her forward and pulled her wig right off her head, revealing her shoulder-length blue hair in the light.
Amy was only able to voice this in mid-turn. "Zoicite, I can explain if…" The rest of her words were lost when Zoicite sealed a hard and passionate kiss over her mouth.
Serenity gasped while Raye snorted.
Zoicite pulled away tenderly, but his hand remained pressed to her neck, while the other hand still held her wrist in a shackle-like grip. "I will not have your excuses today. You deliberately put you life on the line for your brother!"
"Seth needed my help. Greg…"
He kissed her again with as much force and fury as the first time. However, this time, as the seconds ticked by, Zoicite's clutch over Amy gradually gentled. Amy melted into Zoicite's embrace and it was then that Serenity stopped worrying. It made sense why Amy could not reciprocate her feelings to Greg even though her love for him didn't quite dwindle. It was just the kind of love that lacked in the passion and heart that was there in the combination of Zoicite and Amy.
"Now I see the resemblance," Serenity thoughtfully said aloud.
"You two complain about Jadeite and I when the both of you should take a good look and evaluate yourselves," Raye complained rolling her eyes at them.
Zoicite and Amy separated completely and turned to stare at the two women. "Nice to see you again, Raye. Nice to meet you, Lady Serenity." Zoicite gave a rueful smile. Amy jabbed him in the side with her elbow, but it drew the wrong kind of attention.
"Is that your blood?!" He demanded of Amy when he finally noticed the slit on the sleeve of her arm.
"Just some of it."
Raye waved at Amy's lie. "You mean most of it since you were cut by that mob."
"Those rebels are going to die this time!" Zoicite cried in a full rage.
"No one is going to die unless you want to regret it for the rest of your life. Stop bullying those people," Amy grumbled.
"Amy, this is the last straw. Look what they did to Seth!"
Amy shook her head. "Seth had it coming. He's a hooligan and I'm still trying to tame this sorry child."
Amy and Zoicite continued bickering after they hefted Seth's limp body over Zoicite's horse. It was more of a one-sided fight. Essentially, Amy just stood around taking the heat because Serenity could tell that the young woman was ashamed. She was not necessarily ashamed of her brother's misbehaviors, but she was ashamed of the fact that she always had the knack for covering for him when he least deserved it. It was an overly-protective sister act, but Amy had to learn that covering for a brother every single time would only add fuel to the fire. Seth was an adolescent with the usual adolescent spurts. There was a definite line that Amy had drawn for the boy, but the boy had become immune to that line. He thought he could get away with things because his older sister was there to defend him.
"I wish I could stay and advise young Seth when he wakens," Serenity told Amy in earnest.
Amy gave Serenity's shoulder a light pat. "There's nothing you say or do that could change the way he is. I just hope he grows up soon."
Serenity grinned. She motioned for Amy's husband to come forward from where he stood a couple feet back. Zoicite walked towards them with an irritable mug. "I don't like extended farewells. I don't know when we will meet up again."
"Poppycock," Amy snapped. "You complain because you can't stand us women talk."
Zoicite flashed a charming yet sinful grin to his wife. Serenity sighed and took each of their hands. She joined those hands together and held on. "The two of you have such a beautiful future together. Seth will be alright."
Amy and Zoicite stared dreamily into each other's eyes when Raye stepped up and grabbed Serenity by the shoulders. "Let's go Ms. Seer. We will definitely be safe after we cross the border.
The visit was a blur in Serenity's mind. Once she and Raye exchanged their old disguises for new disguises they were off again to meet Endymion's third brother, the king.